A Troy, N.Y.-based engineering
firm headed by John Corey '76 has developed a cooler that could be a major
product in the medical and superconducting industries. The following story
appeared in the Business Review on June
Super cool device
Clever Fellows betting its
innovative cryocoolers will heat up company revenue, profit
By Christine Margiotta
The Business Review
Clever Fellows Innovation Consortium Inc., a
small engineering company of 15 employees, has developed a machine with
potential to make millions of dollars in profits.
The company's QDrive Resonant Power Systems
division designed a motor that uses soundwaves to power their line of
cryocoolers–devices capable of generating temperatures more than 300 degrees
below zero. Cryomech in Syracuse, Helix in Boston, and Sumatomo in Japan make similar coolers, but
none use the sound-wave technology.
“”Our linear motors are what really
makes this practical,” said John Corey, company president and co-founder. Clever
Fellows is marketing its coolers to the medical and superconducting industries.
The hopes are that someday emphysema patients will be free of bulky oxygen
tanks, cell-phone towers will work better, and mass electrical failures like
the Aug. 14, 2003, blackout will be
The coolers landed QDrive deals in Japan and Germany, and it has production
deals pending in the United Kingdom, China, India and the Netherlands. The device also got Clever
Fellows a $700,000 contract with the U.S. Air Force and a partnership with
industrial gas company Praxair (NYSE:PX).
For Corey, the journey to this point was
long, slow and expensive. But worth it.
“The lost nights, the lost
wages–that's the way it should be,” he said. “So far [the business]
has been organically grown. I think that's a little unusual nowadays.”
A mechanical engineer who loves
experimenting with energy conversion, Corey never wanted to make money fast. He
liked following a rather old-fashioned route–making products, selling them,
and rolling profits back into the business.
Corey began Clever Fellows in 1989 with Ed
Slate and George Yarr, two buddies he worked with at Mechanical Technology Inc.
in Albany. Slate was a system
engineer, while Corey and Yarr worked on Sterling engines as senior design
Corey came to the Capital Region from Virginia to major in mechanical engineering
at Union College. He chose to stay in the
area, attracted by the small cities surrounded by rural land.
Yarr came from Long Island to take the job at MTI
after the aerospace industry, which held most of his interests, fell flat in
the 1970s. They just naturally began hanging out together, tinkering with
machinery in their basements and garages throughout the 1980s.
“It just happened,” Yarr said.
“Little by little we'd get ideas and say, let's try things out, and
eventually this business formed.”
The new company moved into an unlikely
headquarters: a boarded-up firehouse on 10th Street in Troy. “It's kind of a
trademark for us at this point,” Corey said. “You just ask local
people, 'Hey, you know that firehouse at the end of the bridge?'–and they know
where to find us.”
more on John Corey and other Union entrepreneurs, read this Union College magazine story: http://www.union.edu/N/DS/s.php?s=4337.